‘Tis the season… the season of traveling, whether that be to your grandma’s house or other friends and family. To save a few bucks, families will often opt for a road trip over flying and, while Social-Engineer has discussed the possible perils to your personally identifiable information (PII) associated with flight travel, we wouldn’t want to leave out people who choose to pack up the car and grab their travel atlas (AKA Google Maps, let’s be real) and hit the road so let’s discuss road-trip financial safety.
What threats exist on the road?
There are a few areas where your PII is at risk while road tripping. First, you are driving, so you will need gas at some point. Gas pumps are targets to have credit card skimmers installed on them, which copy and transmit a user’s credit card information to a malicious actor. In fact, one man made over $425,000 using credit card skimmers on gas pumps across Michigan.
Next, since you are driving, potentially out of state, your credit cards may be temporarily frozen because you are spending money at previously unused locations. How do you get around this? Many people will call their banks and credit card companies to alert them to their travel. However, while this is convenient for your ability to spend money, it also means your bank may not recognize a fraudulent, out-of-state charge compared to your traveling spending habits.
Finally, you may be driving at odd times of day in locations that are largely unknown to you around individuals you are unfamiliar with. This can put finances at risk if anyone is able to see your payment information or ID, and you may not know who is collecting information versus just passing through next to you.
So, how do we protect ourselves?
Here are some tips and tricks to protect yourself while road-tripping this holiday season:
- When getting gas or using ATMs, check for credit card skimmers. Look at the area you will insert your card, feel around it, check to see if there is anything abnormal. Jiggle the card insert slot to see if it may have been tampered with. If anything is abnormal, move on to the next gas station or ATM. Sub-point: ensure you are getting gas regularly, so you are never getting gas when you desperately need it. Being in a bind, like not being able to drive farther, will increase your vulnerability and reduce your ability to choose a safe location
- Use credit cards over debit cards, as they usually have more robust zero-liability policies for fraud where debit cards are not as forgiving and may not refund fraudulent charges.
- Be sure to alert your credit card company and bank of any travel, but when you arrive at your destination remember to call them and remind them you are no longer traveling, so they will resume monitoring your accounts for out-of-state activity.
- When traveling, check your credit card and banking accounts regularly to ensure there is no suspicious activity.
- When going into gas stations or stops, take only the credit cards and information needed for that stop and leave the remaining options safely tucked away. This will reduce others’ ability to access more information while you’re on the road.
- At any point when traveling, if you feel something is off or you are uncomfortable, trust your instincts, get into your car, and move to a safer location.
Stay aware, alert, and take precautions to ensure your road trip financial safety. Enjoy the drive!